[dehai-news] (Reuters): FACTBOX-African challenges for Barack Obama

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Nov 07 2008 - 12:58:21 EST

FACTBOX-African challenges for Barack Obama
Fri Nov 7, 2008 5:47am EST

Nov 7 (Reuters) - Barack Obama's U.S. election victory has sparked euphoria and high expectations around Africa.

Here are some of his policy challenges on the continent:


* Like the Bush administration, the new U.S. government will want to stop the continent's vast lawless spaces becoming safe havens for Osama bin Laden's network. Al Qaeda was blamed for bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and areas of concern now include the Horn and North Africa. Security concerns there focus on oil- and gas-exporting Algeria, though pro-Western Morocco and Tunisia have also been attacked in recent years by militants.


* Washington has been competing for the continent's natural resources with rivals from India, China and Russia as it tries to cut its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Last year, Africa accounted for more of America's petroleum imports (19.8 percent) than Persian Gulf states (16.1 percent). Militant attacks in Nigeria's Delta and Angolan elections due in 2009 -- both big producers -- will feature in Obama's energy briefings.


* Obama has called the war in Sudan's Darfur region genocide and a "collective stain on our national and human conscience". He wants stiffer sanctions on the government, and says he will cooperate with the proposed war crimes indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC).


* Washington has bitter memories of Mogadishu, where the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle marked the beginning of the end for a U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping force. The United States supported the formation of a transitional Somali government in 2004. It has been hobbled by internal feuds while Islamist insurgents that Washington says are linked to al Qaeda launch near-daily attacks. Piracy has also exploded offshore this year.


* The world's biggest U.N. peacekeeping force has been unable to stop battles between government forces and rebels breaking out again in mineral-producing eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 1 million civilians are displaced in a country the size of Western Europe where more than 5 million people have died in a decade from war, hunger and disease.


* Zimbabwe's opposition won a March presidential poll, but not enough votes to avoid a run-off. It then pulled out of the second ballot citing violence by veteran President Robert Mugabe's supporters, and power sharing talks have stalled over control of government ministries. The United States worked with Britain earlier this year on a failed attempt to persuade the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Mugabe.


* The United States main ally in the Horn of Africa is its biggest military power, Ethiopia. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has sent thousands of troops to support the fragile Somali government, but has been criticised by the opposition and rights groups for political restrictions and a military campaign against rebels in the eastern Ogaden region. Tensions remain high with Eritrea. The two nations fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed 70,000 people, and in July the Security Council voted to withdraw peacekeepers from the disputed frontier after Eritrea forced most of the U.N. troops out. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne) - For main story, please click [L6022742] (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/)

Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

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